Learning English as a Second Language (ESL): It’s Never Too Late!

English as a second language
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The English Language is hard, period! So, it is no wonder that when an adult is trying to either overcome illiteracy or trying their hand at English as a Second Language (ESL), they can become frustrated at any attempts they have in reading and abandon their goal at learning to read.

It is considered by many experts to be a hard language to master.  Many words can have multiple meanings. Some words are spelled the same yet pronounced differently. The fact that verb and noun order can be the exact opposite of Latin languages (Spanish, French, Italian, etc.) will baffle quite a few learners.

Even put up against the other Germanic languages like German and Dutch,  English can confuse even the most intelligent of adults.

And do not get me started on regional dialects and words.

We, at SpellQuiz, thrive to promote better English language learning environment. That’s why we present you the ultimate masterclass on English as a Second Language (ESL) so that you can learn English better and faster.   

English Illiteracy: Understanding the Current Situation

As I said in a previous article, there are many reasons that an adult is having trouble reading English, learning to read English or other difficulties with the English Language. 

For some, it is for the tragic reason that they slipped through the cracks of the US Educational system. They never learned more than the most basic reading skills. 

And for others, it could just be that they are learning the English language for the first time.  Learning to read, and applying that reading ability can be a long, arduous task.

That in no way suggests that it is impossible.

It merely means that how you approach improving your reading in the English Language will be different than a juvenile does.

So let’s cover some areas and ideas in conquering adult illiteracy!

English as a Second Language (ESL) 

Why is Learning English as a Second Language (ESL) Important?

Proficiency in English is a requirement to become a citizen of the United States.  Many people can be granted visas and begin the citizenship process with a less than firm grasp of reading the English Language. 

The problem with adults in any learning environment, especially one as fundamental as communication. Cultural backgrounds, pride, age, and a host of other issues come into play for the adult learner.

Kids love to learn most of the time.  The thought of learning new things are considered exciting to young learners. Being surprised thrills almost any kid.

Adults usually do not like surprises. Life has taught them that surprises are not always for good. For English as a Second Language (ESL) students, there are many roadblocks that adult learning to read the English language faces.

Some problems to consider are:

  • being made to look stupid or foolish in front of others
  • “losing face.” This can easily derail many trying to learn
  • to appear “undignified.”
  • failing, possibly again.

We can tackle each one either in a group setting or one on one environment. Just like child learners, there will never exist a “one size fits all” solution. Each student learning to read will offer different challenges and opportunities. This helps the new students learn languages easily. 

Depending on culture and circumstances, the learning environment and setting will have to be adjusted accordingly. Remember that the person you are helping may be a loved one; you might be researching for new tips in an English as a Second Language class you run; the possibilities are endless.

A hard Road Ahead

But remember this, to you, it is something you are helping with a problem. When you finish, you will go on to your next task. The next project.

To the person struggling with illiteracy and English as a Second Language, this is their life.

Learning to read will open up doors to their lives that you cannot even fathom or visualize.

Put yourself in their shoes.

I know that sounds condescending, but it is an excellent piece of advice.

Picture yourself learning a challenging new task. Picture how you mastered it, or how you would master it,

Try and remember all the frustration you faced. Think about how you overcame it. What tasks or shortcuts did you use or undertake?

Far too many times we try and be the teacher without having first looked at the world through the eyes of the student.

Use that insight to help others master reading the English Language.

english language This is the card that opens many doors

Learning the English Language: Tips and Tricks

Well, you have decided to help someone overcome their struggles with the English Language.

At this time, it is too early to say congratulations, or ask God to have mercy on your soul.

All joking aside, it is a little of both.

If you are a teacher of Adult Illiteracy or English as a Second Language, it stands to reason that either you are looking at new ideas and materials for your class; or, you have reached a brick wall with a student or a class.

Don’t fret; it happens to all or us. I taught High School in an Alternative Education Setting for a decade and there where many times that I became frustrated with the trials and tribulations of many students.

But do you know what I found out during those years?

Many discipline problems that had students sent to my class all had one or two things in common. 

They were reading and working on an elementary school level and were frustrated, or they were operating above a high school level and were bored.

Their level of education determined their participation in the classroom.

The ones reading and functioning on lower levels would act out to take the focus off the fact that they were not getting it. They felt if their peers did not see that they could not read, they would be faced with the embarrassment of being seen as stupid.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, students that think and act on levels above the class acted out for boredom.

Read More: A Comprehensive Guide to ESL Activities for Adults

So how does that help you?

Easy, you need to know what level of understanding that the person or persons you are helping are on. It is particularly true for learning English as a Second Language.

Now, you could bore the living heck out of them and give them a test to determine their level. At best here you stand the risk of frustrating your students and yourself.

So, the solution is to make it fun, make it challenging.

But most of all, make the person understand that this is not pass or fail. Make sure they know that this assessment will only help them.

Even better, do not let them find out they are being tested.

How do you master that, you ask?

That is a great question.

The answer is found with this simple question…

Would you like to play a game?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Fighting off English Illiteracy

Yes, I meant to leave you hanging after that revelation,

Its a bit cruel, but think about it; I am giving you just enough information to keep you interested. 

I am keeping the words I use and the phrases I use short and on a varying level. 

That way you are hanging on my words. Will my next sentence answer your questions? Will it push to the edge of revelation, and leave you hanging?

Or will you get frustrated and read something else?

That is the joys of language and the key to your teaching adults.

But, where were we, oh yes, playing a game.

On the main page here on SpellQuiz, there are several levels of spelling challenges. This is the perfect chance to not only have a little fun with the learner but to gauge where they are. 

Now you can take part in online Spelling Bee too! Check out the SBO section on Spellquiz today! This fun game is perfect for those aiming to participate in a spelling bee competition. 

Also, you should ask your kids to have a better grasp at these spelling words as these are the most commonly seen words in the English language. 

Start at the very beginning of the modules in Grade One, and go on until the student is unable to go any further. Very soon, you’ll realize that you are capable of solving the harder spelling quiz for grade 9, or even the spelling quiz for grade 12

However, if you feel confident enough you can try the spelling quiz for adults

This does two things, one it gives you an idea of where the student is at in performance.

Second, the student will have a little bit of confidence-building.

Think about most games; they go from easy to hard. It is by design. If the games started out difficult, most people would not play them.  So the designers purposefully make them start off easy and progressively get harder.

Once the student cannot go on, that is the level you work on.

Just remember to avoid making the learner think that learning English as a Second Language is impossible. Otherwise, they won’t feel competent enough for the spelling words for adults

Once they think they cannot do it, they never will.

Image by Johann Lavandier from Pixabay

Reading and keeping it interesting

As I child, I was raised to love reading. To the point that I read just for the sake of reading. It has been unnatural to try and relate to someone who struggles with reading.

But that love was instilled as a child. While a child, most people are trusting and did things because a person of authority said it was needed.

Unlike children, adults need to know why they are learning something. 

What is the point of this?

Why do I need to know this?

How will I use it?

So your educational techniques for learning English as a Second Language should be centred around answering those questions. How do you show an adult that reading is necessary for their job?

What tools could you use?

To answer that question, you only need to think of one subject,

What everyday tasks or things benefit the adult?

Once you have the answer to that, you have the teaching methods for English as a Second Language.

Image by Johann Lavandier from Pixabay

Learning to Read

The actual act of learning to read by the adult will happen at different paces and with different tools for every adult.

An adult that is already literate in one language, but trying to master English as a Second Language will face different obstacles that a person that English is their first language and they cannot read at all.

Believe it or not, the one that cannot read at all will learn faster than the one learning English as a second language.

That is simply because the person learning for the first time will not have to unlearn grammar rules that exist in one language but is different in another.

So this presents several opportunities.

Show and Tell

Yeah, I know, show and tell is a cute game for Kindergarteners. 

But it can help adults too.

Picture this, every week, the person or people you are helping picks an article about a topic they read and discusses what is in the article. 

In this way, they have shared information about a subject that they find interesting. Nothing helps the self-confidence factor better than sharing wisdom.

Alternatively, they can share a book that they are reading. Now, this is something that the adult learner should be doing, reading.  The brain is a muscle and only improves as they use it. So ask that your students pick a book from their reading level and read it.

Once again, the idea of being able to share new found wisdom will only spur the learner to keep going.

Resumes, help wanted ads and tax returns. Oh My!

As I stated earlier, an adult wants to know what they are studying, why they need to know it, and how they can use it.

They will scoff at information that they feel they do not need or cannot use.

So this tactic shows them how they can apply their new knowledge. Bring in want ads, show them how to write resumes and fill out applications with the words and grammar that they are learning.

When they see how the words they learn advance their place in life and they will become dedicated students.

My dad as he learned to read, looked over automotive repair books. Remember this was the 80s and 90s when you did not need a degree in engineering to change the oil. He realized pretty quickly that he was lacking in his vocabulary and pushed himself to understand the words he was unfamiliar with. Try this vocabulary tester to understand your current skill level!

Mastering this, he saw how his ability to repair cars with greater ease helped him.

He could apply his new found knowledge to other fields and interests.

By the time he passed away in 2007, he had started reading for fun.

So, find what they want to get out of learning and show them how they master it.

Bring on the games

Like I stated earlier, games are a great way to improve vocabulary and literacy. The spirit of competition, whether against a computer opponent or another human, can force a person to improve their game. Word games would be one of the smartest ways to learn a language. 

Currently, on my phone, I have a crossword puzzle app and a word search app. I spend hours of free time pushing myself to beat the computer. I have even noticed that even as well read as I like to think I am, I have learned some new words.

In adult literacy classes and even some of the classes that I taught, Scrabble is a favourite. Not only is spelling a must, you sometimes will have to have an idea of the word meaning.

Even better, you can limit the game to using vocabulary terms that the class has already covered. This might be a great stress breaker or study session before a quiz or review.

Make the student keep a journal. This by far is one of my favorites.

The student will misspell practically every word in the beginning. They know they will and you will too. Here they can record their fears and their hopes on learning and life. Without realizing it their spelling will improve, their vocabulary will improve and one day they will thumb through the journal and realize that they have come a long way in their abilities.

I would highly recommend coming back to the SpellQuiz periodically. Especially when you think that the learner is starting to doubt themselves or hit a brick wall.

Once they start playing and go even further than they did before, it will pump up their self-confidence and push them to apply themselves even more.

These might seem like trivial things, but to a person thirsting for knowledge and skill, it is these little things that make the difference between success and failure.

Bringing it all together

Hopefully, you can take from this, a few ideas on how to help at least one person learn English as a Second Language (ESL). This simple knowledge will inspire a person to become bigger than they are. They will be able to read thoughts and observations from people hundreds of miles away and centuries in the past.

When you are helping someone to overcome a deficit that separates them from the rest of humanity. By giving them this gift, you also enrich humanity as a whole, you connect to the greater knowledge another voice that will add their voice to the cosmic fugue, and we all will be better for it.

How to Improve English Vocabulary: Unraveling the Mystery!

English Vocabulary
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Want to know a secret?

It’s about spelling, vocabulary, and reading.

You are not born with an impressive English vocabulary.  No one is more disposed to developing an impressive vocabulary than anyone else.

And why wouldn’t anyone want an impressive vocabulary? A person that is well versed in the English language can command a better salary in the world. They are looked at with respect and admiration or their peers.

The question is not “why,” but how to improve English vocabulary!

Doors closed for other people are opened for those who grasp the English language.

But it is not an elite club that is destined to command the language. Euclid, the Greek philosopher that founded Geometry said this to a young pupil that was struggling with math,

“There is no royal road to Geometry.”

The same thing applies to learning the English language.

“There is no royal road to English.”

You too can have an impressive vocabulary.

All it needs is practice.

I can hear you yawning already, more flashcards, more boring spelling exercises, more silly and time-wasting tools.

No, there is none of that here. 

You see, the brain is a muscle. And to improve the brain’s functions, you need to work it like you would deltoids or biceps.

You must use your mind to expand it.

So, it stands to reason that you must use your vocabulary to expand it.

And it doesn’t have to be boring things; it can just as easily be the fun things, the exciting things.

It can be ALL the things!

So, here are Twenty-Five everyday things that you can do to build your reading and spelling skills to master the spelling test words

Now you can take part in online Spelling Bee too! Check out the SBO section on Spellquiz today! This real-time game is great for practicing the 9th grade spelling bee words or the 11th grade spelling bee words

How Many Words Should You Know? The Average English Vocabulary

Before I give you some tips on how to improve vocabulary, let me ask you something, how many words do you know?

Do you think you have an extensive vocabulary? First, you need to know your current vocabulary level with an English vocabulary quiz!

Where would you rate your vocabulary? Extensive? Fair? Building? Lacking? There are fine quality tests that can help you to find the answer.

Before you answer that, you should probably look at some of the statistics that would help you assume the average vocabulary of a common native English speaker. 

The Economist, the famous UK-magazine tried to figure out the average vocabulary of a regular native English. So, does the research suggest?

An adult native speaker typically has a word-collection of 20,000 to somewhere around 35,000 words. 

Yes, that’s a lot!

Even the number is surprisingly high for the kids. The report suggests that an 8-year-old has a vocabulary of 10,000 words while for kids of 4-years-old, the number is about 5,000 words. 

On the other hand, adult foreigners have an English vocabulary of about 4,500 words. If a foreigner starts living in an English speaking country, the vocabulary could reach somewhere above the 10,000 words mark. 

So, where do you think you are based on that?

Amazing, no matter how many words you know, it is only a fraction of the words that exist in the English language, so do not feel bad. 

So, you should ask your kids to have a better grasp at the sight words as these are the most commonly seen words in the English language. Plus, it would help the students with spelling test words too. 

Think fast!

How many words do you think there are in the English language? 

How Many Words are in the English Language?

Well, the answer depends on who you ask.

A good way to find the answer would be looking at the famous dictionaries. After all, they should contain all the words of the English language, shouldn’t they?

Dictionary Name Word Collection
The Second Edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary 171,476
Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (1993) 470,000
The Compact Oxford English Dictionary 500,000
Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English 6th Edition 230,000

You then have to figure in words that are considered regional dialect and slang. Estimates put that at around another 75,000 to 100,000 words.

That means that altogether, depending on how and who you count, there are between a quarter-million and six-hundred thousand words in the English language.

The above-average English speaker at 30,000 words has, at best, a little over ten percent of the English language in their vocabulary. When you figure out that their active vocabulary is about a third of that, there is a lot of room to learn more.

So, let’s go with the number that the average, everyday person has about 10,000 words in their active vocabulary and there are certain great answers for how to improve vocabulary.

Now you are wondering, what is the difference between active vocabulary and vocabulary?

Active vocabulary is the words that a person uses on a daily basis. Vocabulary itself are words a person recognizes without relying on context clues or running for a dictionary.

You are probably thinking 10,000? That’s it? I have to know more than that!

Wait. I am not even sure I know that many!

Learning with Games

I can not hammer this one home enough. 

Learning should be fun. And it can be.

Think about kids and how fast they adjust to new technology.  They are not born with a tech gene that goes away when we become adults.

They learn by having fun.

When it involves competition. When enjoyment and gaming come into play, we learn without realizing it.

So, that would be my first suggestion. 

Play games, have fun.

If you have the ability, play games with friends, with family. Not only will you build your spelling and your vocabulary, but you can also use the time to bond and just have a good time in general. Now, you can learn idioms examples, and fun quizzes at SpellQuiz too!

How to improve vocabulary

Anyone up for a good game of scrabble? Password anyone? How about some hangman to pass the time?

Any word game can become a party with the right people.

All alone? Want some games to play during the downtimes at work or to relax during the day?

Try SpellQuiz

Or go to your Android or Apple store for your phone and look for all sorts of crossword puzzles (if you are really adventurous, buy crossword puzzle books and have at it!), word search, or any number of app games to play.

Play games and win knowledge as a valuable prize!

Use College Preparation Tests

You are probably thinking that I have lost my mind,

College Prep tests?

Those are way above my level.

Are they?

Hear me out. One, you really do not know what level you are capable of reaching until you push yourself way beyond your comfort zone. Two, what better way to learn an impressive new vocabulary, a broad and rich lexicon of words than to force yourself to work and think on a much higher plane of thought.

So, do this. Grab the SAT and ACT practice tests. You can find them online, you can buy them in bookstores (there are even college-level vocabulary and spelling quizzes here at SpellQuiz!).

Take them.

There is a good chance that you will bomb them on your first few tries. You might surprise yourself as well.

But, learn the words you do not know. Study them. Use them.

Keep taking the tests until you can pass them with ease.

Most of all, that dedication to leaving your comfort zone will pay off eventually.

Carry a Dictionary and Thesaurus with You

No, really.

Now before you go out and buy an Oxford Dictionary and a cart to wheel it around on, hear me out.

You can do this two ways. One, you can buy a pocket dictionary or thesaurus; or, you can download a dictionary/thesaurus app on your smartphone.

Either one will work.

What I want you to do is this. Next time you are bored and need something to do, read a page or two and absorb the new words. Or, if you happen to see a word that you don’t recognize..look it up.

You will be amazed at how fast you will build your vocabulary.

And later on, you will see another use for this on how to improve vocabulary.

Read Every Day: A Trick that Never Fails!

Practice makes perfect.

If you are like me, you read novels and stories and wish that you could have the same command of the English language as those writers.

The way that they use words like artists uses colors and a brush to paint a picture in your mind.

And you find yourself wishing that you too could speak, or write as passionately as they do.

Heck, maybe not even that far. You would just like to be able to have their vocabulary.

So, the best way to how to improve vocabulary to the level of your favorite author is to read. 

Read a lot. Read every day. Make it a point to have read a dozen pages or more.  Make it your goal to sit, uninterrupted for so many minutes each day.

Read the newspaper, the Harry Potter book series, or maybe one or two weekly magazines.

Heck, read your daily horoscope.

But read something.

Before too long you will start to see your vocabulary expand and grow. Words you never dreamed would be in your lexicon will become second nature.

So, crack open a new book and get to it!

Mix Things Up: Diversify the Reading List

Above I talked about the importance of reading every day.

But there is one more piece to that advice.


Don’t be satisfied with sticking to one genre of writing. Don’t be satisfied with one grade level of a book. If today you can read a sixth-grade (after mastering spelling for grade 6) book with relative ease, then next week read a book suitable for a seventh-grader. of course, you need to master spelling for grade 7 first. 

Don’t stay in a comfort zone. By constantly increasing the difficulty of your writing, you are going to learn new words. You are going to expand your lexicon.

You are going to improve your reading and writing ability.

So, try War and Peace instead of Dick and Jane

Practice New Words in Different Ways

If you are planning to add a new word into your vocabulary, you will have to use it 25 to 20 times at least before you can actually grasp it fully.

So that said, write down whatever new word you come across. Memorize its definition. commit it to memory. Use it every chance you can. 

Emails, texts, casual conversations, anything.

The more you use the word, the more it will become common to your vocabulary.

After all, you will not build up your brain muscle unless you work out.

Think of this as pushups for your mind.

Take a Writing Course

I know what you are thinking.

Why? I don’t have what it takes to be a writer. Why take a class on being one?

Quite the opposite, for someone who looking for how to improve vocabulary, there is nothing better to try.

Think about it. Today, I bet if I asked you to write a short story, maybe a paragraph at most, you would probably write this:

See Dick, Jane, and Spot as they go to the park. Dick, Jane, and Spot are going to play.

About right?

Well, imagine what that sentence would look after some writing classes?

It was a sunny, blustery day when Dick, Jane, and their loyal dog spot were seen headed to the park. Though no one was certain, it was believed that they were headed there to play and enjoy the weather. 

Both sentences said roughly the same thing. Yet you can see the difference.

The writing classes may never turn you into Ernest Hemmingway, but it may very well improve your vocabulary.

How to Improve Vocabulary with Mnemonics?

Remembering new words can be a tricky challenge. Basically, you can call them different memory techniques.

These techniques can come in handy while you are trying to add new words gradually in your vocabulary. 

For example, you can think of funny sentences to remember new words – Island is land surrounded by water. 

Have fun with it. You might even increase your vocabulary just by creating the mnemonics!

Makeup Associations

You see it in interviews, or visits to therapists.

They say, I will say a word and you say the first thing that comes to mind.

Its called word association. If someone says, big, in my mind the word huge comes to mind.

But this can be a practiced exercise as well.

For instance, when I say the word “far,” what comes to mind?

away? distant? 

Well, what other words also mean far? Find it in the thesaurus you have now and find a word that you can associate with far. 

After a while, you will automatically see the word “far” and your mind will substitute the new word or words.

Make Your Own Vocabulary Tests

Yes, make your own vocabulary tests.

Keep track of all the new words you encounter in a week. All the ones that you encounter through word of the day, having to look them up, or just in reading.

Then at the end of the week, quiz yourself.

Write the words down and see how many of them you can write the definition down to without having to look it up. Do not worry if you have to check the dictionary on some of them. This is not a do or die test.

It is just checking for mastery.

Maybe even keep the words that you missed one week, and add it to your next quiz.

As an added bonus, maybe give yourself a reward for mastering the test.

Nothing like an ice cream sundae after a particular challenging English vocabulary test.

I think “victory” is also a sort of cherry on top!

Keep a Journal

Dear Diary, today I learned 5 new words and that I do not like Brussel sprouts.

It sounds kind of weird, but keeping a journal will help you build your vocabulary quite nicely. The reasons for that will shock English teachers but build your English Vocabulary.

You see, when you are not focused on doing anything other than write, you are not so concerned with grammar, or even making sense as much as you are interested in conveying your thoughts to paper.

So, when you are not concentrating on the other aspects of the written language, your mind becomes free to explore newer words.

After all, you are not impressing anyone other than yourself. Let the new words bounce off the walls. Take your English vocabulary for a spin!


Think back to the list about vocabulary and those that read. They learn far more words each day than those that only read occasionally or rarely. So, think about how many words you can add to your vocabulary by writing.

Now, no one is expecting you to be a J.K. Rowling or a Stephen King

Pick a story that you would like to write, horror, fantasy, sci-fi, romance, general fiction. The pages are blank and you can fill them however you wish.

The true exercise here is to push your vocabulary and the words that you are adding to your vocabulary to the limit. Then pushing past that limit.

Do not go off expecting to write a bestseller, that is not the point. Though if you can, kudos! And send me an autographed copy!

Social Media: It Can be Blessing Too!

I know what you are thinking, have you seen how horrible spelling and grammar is on Facebook? And the text speak?

Surely, you must be joking!

No, I am definitely serious.

And do not call me Shirley.

All joking aside, remember we are trying to expand your active English vocabulary. Yes, it is important to be able to spell it correctly, but that is what a dictionary is for.

You will encounter new words, and by being introduced to them, expand and grow.

Plus, the Grammar police will give you feedback on any and all of your mistakes.

Believe me. English Teachers are tame and polite in comparison.

Additionally, it gives you the opportunity to use the words you are already adding to your vocabulary by other means. That usage reinforces the new words.

Hold Conversations!

There is another way that can expand your English vocabulary.

It is an archaic practice called holding a conversation with someone.

Yeah, sounds scary, sitting down with no smart device, face to face with another living being and talking to that person.

No filters, no messenger to hide behind.

Just you and a living, breathing person.

In real time.

Well, after you are over your social butterflies, know this, there is really no substitute for human interaction.

Sitting and talking with someone else gives you the ability to try out new words, learn words from other people.

And get instant feedback.

Have coffee, share an evening. Have lunch. Anything in a setting that allows you to soak up new words and to try out the words that you are learning.

Watch Television

Go from couch potato to eloquent speaker during one binge watch.

A billion channels, nothing may be on, but there are a lot of conversations going on. And chances are that you will encounter words in a thirty minute broadcast of Crossfire or Friends that you have never encountered before.

Channel surf, I find that watching documentaries, and more educational based programming introduces me to new words all the time, but you can find and enrich your English vocabulary on sitcoms and game shows just as easily.

Remember, adding to your vocabulary does not necessarily mean adding college-level polysyllable words.

It means expanding your horizons and adding new words to your English vocabulary.

Slang, buzz words, and even the simple words count. If not more so.

English is constantly evolving and absorbing new words, you should too.

Listen to the Radio

Next to conversations with other human beings, this is probably another example of tech history still being relevant.

Just joking.

How many hours a day do you spend on the bus? In a car? Traveling? 

Or maybe just sitting around the house relaxing.

We live about a twenty-minute drive from the High School that my wife works at. We live in Texas, so we judge everything distance-related in time to get there, not miles. For instance, Houston is an hour and a half West of us; Austin and Dallas are about an eight-hour drive. 

El Paso is over a day,

You get the idea. It is a long time to be sitting in a car.

Invariably, one of us has the radio on. When I drop my wife off, or pick her up, depending on the time of day, it is either NPR or a classic rock station. 

I still encounter new words all the time. 

Listen to the radio, grab an audiobook or two, CDs, Mp3, whatever. 

Turn your commute time, your travel time into a productive English vocabulary builder.

Sing Along!

“Born in the U-S-A! I was BOORN in the U-S-A!”

Okay, I will never be Bruce Springsteen, but I love to sing in the shower and will sing along with songs I like (I admit that I do not particularly know all the words correctly.  Or maybe I do, and the singer gets it wrong!)

In the car, at home, sometimes with friends if I feel comfortable enough. I have even bravely downloaded TikTok and play around with it.

The point is not being the next American Idol. the point is learning new words, and reinforcing the ones you know.

As I said much earlier, increasing your English vocabulary usage and size is the overall goal.

No one said that it did not have to be fun.

Belt out a tune or two!

“Stoooop in the name of love, before you break my heart!”

Make Synonym Word Lists

What is the difference between ill and sick?

On the surface, really nothing. We call those words synonyms. Basically, words that are interchangeable without changing the meaning of the sentence.

How many words in your English vocabulary do you think are synonyms of other words?

Ever thought about making a list of them?

Turn it into a challenge. 

I did this once, I wrote the first one hundred words that came to mind.

I then went back to that list and tried to think of a synonym for each and every word. A few words had its synonym already on the list, and quite a few stumped me.

I then went to my trusty thesaurus and found synonyms for those words.

I now had a handy list of new words to absorb.

Try it yourself, maybe challenge friends to a duel to see who can find the most synonyms of particular words.

Have fun. Learn. Repeat.

Look up Words You Don’t Know

Every day we encounter more than a  few words that we have no idea what they mean or are not sure.

Most of the time, we just move on. After all, what is one word?

Now multiply that by every time that you do that in a week or a month.

How many words are you missing out on?

Take that couple of minutes to look them up and use them.

You would be surprised at how fast you add words to your English vocabulary.

Learn New Words Every Day

I have said this over and over, the mind is a muscle and needs to be exercised regularly.

You do not build biceps or legs by staying at the same weight level on your dumbbells. Only by increasing your load do you grow.

It is the same with your vocabulary unless you increase your load, you will not grow your English vocabulary.

English Vocabulary

Remember above we pointed out that well-read people add about 4 new words a day to their vocabulary.  Flex your brain muscle, add a few pounds to the weights, do a couple more reps and sets.

The guys that girls ogle at the beach did not get buff by doing one rep a day. They did it by committing to a long term, disciplined regimen. You have to expect to do the same if you want to have an English vocabulary that has the librarians drooling.

Develop Practical English Vocabulary

What is the difference between ornamental and practical?

When you are learning our new words, are you able to use these words often, or even at all?

Do you know what a hoarder is?

Learning words that you cannot use every day or more than occasional usage, is word hoarding. It is taking up valuable brain space for words that would be more effective.

Instead of hundreds of Beanie Babies, you are hoarding words.

The words that you use should serve one purpose, to allow you to communicate effectively.

So, ditch the balderdash and go for simple, practical English Vocabulary. You can certainly try different vocabulary apps for students

Move Words from Comprehensive to Expressive English Vocabulary

As I state before, you want an effective English vocabulary, something that you can use.

So, when you are picking the new words, ask yourself, can I use this word?

Words are used to express ideas. They are used to convey thought and emotion.

So ask yourself, can I used these words in a professional or personal setting?

When I write an article about homeschool, or about education, I aim to be comprehensive. That is for the simple fact that it is necessary for me to address a wide variety of situations and cases.

I do not know if the person is having their questions in Texas, England, or even Australia, so I have to write a broad and comprehensive guide.

That does not mean that I focus on having a broad or comprehensive vocabulary. I do not have extensive knowledge of medical, engineering or legal terms. When those words present themselves, I am quick to run for the dictionary.

And that is how it should be. Concentrate on building a vocabulary that you can use. Any item that you can not make use of, no matter how impressive, is practically useless.

As a friend of mine who designs cars said, it doesn’t matter how impressive the sport luxury car engine is, if it is too expensive to be used in a car, what use is it?

Visualize New Words

What image comes to mind when I say lightbulb?

Of course, most everyone can draw that mental picture of that.

And that is good, when you can automatically see an image when you see the word, you are well on your way to learning the word.

That way when you see the word on the page, you can picture it in your mind. It will help in placing the word in its proper context.

One of my passions for fiction books is about the 18th and 19th century Royal Navy.  I love immersing myself in the Horatio Hornblower and Bolitho novels.

So, when I am reading about objects on the sailing ships, I often come across nautical terms and such that I am not too familiar with. Once I am able to define the word, I picture it in my head.

That helps me to orient myself and learn the word. After a while, I automatically can picture what I am reading about. It makes the narrative far more enjoyable than if I could not.

Not meaning to brag, but this landlubber can find his way around one of the King’s Ships.

Ask for Feedback

No one learns in a vacuum.

And you should not even try.  The best way NOT to learn something is to assume that you will perfect it and there is no need for outside advice or help.

We all need to get feedback of some kind.

So, why would be building your English Vocabulary be any different?

Often times, we do not see our mistakes in usage or form. That is the time that we are the most arrogant about our abilities and skills.

It is also the time that we need that feedback most of all.

Do not be afraid to ask for it. Do not be leery of seeking out a second set of ears and eyes.

When I write, I can guarantee that before I finish that I will find at least a dozen errors in usage and spelling.  And I will wager you anything that if I hand it off to someone, they will find a few more.

Not that I chose not to correct it, but because the human mind has a tendency to overlook little mistakes if it can understand what was trying to be spelled or said.

We do not grow unless we can see our mistakes and correct them.

Be Your Own Editor

This might sound a bit contradictory to the last one, but it is an important habit to get into.

Look over your own stuff.  Double check your work.

It will help you catch usage problems, it will make you reach deep and find new and better English vocabulary words.

I have a bit of a confession to make, there are times that I will be typing an article and will not be able to spell a word right. Now, I use Grammarly to help me, but there are times that even Grammarly is lost at what I am trying to write.

English Vocabulary

I have rewritten entire sentences to accommodate the word I use instead. Now, if my English vocabulary was not deep enough, if I did not have a grasp on synonyms, then it would be impossible.

But editing my own work and looking over it has allowed me to grow my English vocabulary significantly.

Try it for yourself, see if you can use stronger words. See if you can improve the work you are doing by bringing together everything you have learned.

Final thoughts on How to Improve English Vocabulary

Communication is one of the things that make humans great.

We can express thoughts and ideas and vocalize needs, wants, fears, and hopes.

Language is a wonderful thing.

The English Language and its vocabulary can be a work of art.

Authors like Shakespeare, Chaucer, Rowling, Asimov have by using their vocabulary painted a picture in words that delights readers the world over.

Statesmen and politicians have uttered phrases and said great things that have impassioned men and women to rise above being ordinary and reach for greatness.

The good thing about a command of the English language and vocabulary is one simple fact.

You do not have to be Thomas Jefferson, You do not need to be Maya Angelou. No one is expecting you to be Winston Churchill or Miles Kohl. We will forgive you if you are not as articulate as John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King.

You do not need to be any of those people to have an extensive and excellent vocabulary.

Well-spoken people also have ways to express themselves is poignant and powerful ways.

That can be you.

The great thing as that no one expects you to know every word in the English language. No one is even suggesting that you know most of it.

A respectable twenty to thirty thousand words still puts you well above the curve.


An average modern speaker has a much more diverse and rich vocabulary. Think of what you can accomplish with push the envelope just a little.

You have it in you to reach new heights. You can expand your English vocabulary.


Its never to late for adults to learn to speak and write English

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If you were able to read that, then you are more literate as an adult in English than a sizeable chunk of the people living today.

That might sound ridiculous; you might even scoff.

But it is entirely correct.

Let me share with you my thoughts on adult learning theory. 

adult literacy My father back in the 80s. A man that would not let his challenges with literacy hold him down (photo courtesy Michael Cole)

My Own Experience

As a child, we usually overlook things that we notice as adults.

Growing up in a working-class family, it never dawned on me that my dad had a literacy problem. After all, I knew that my Dad worked on aircraft at Mare Island In San Fransico, as a teenager. I knew he served several years in the United States Army in mortars and the Quartermasters. 

Growing up I watched my Dad work on cars, trucks, and work in apartment maintenance, so I just assumed that he could read since in my mind he could do all these things.

Boy, was I ever wrong.

My Dad had a reading and writing problem. It wasn’t that he was stupid; after all, he could take apart almost any machine and fix it. He was knowledgeable about the world around him. My dad grasped concepts that others did not understand readily.

He just could not read above an elementary school level. 

My dad grew up in a period that social promotion was a thing. Back in the 1960s, teachers would pass a student even if they did not grasp a concept so long as they were good kids.

So the sixties raged as my Dad grew up. As Kennedy committed us to advance our knowledge of science and math to win the moon race, my dad struggled to read. As a generation identified itself in music and art; in cultural changes and social changes, a young man in Vallejo California struggled to grasp the written word.

adult education, adult continuing education, adult learning theory, learn to read for adults In 1968 the United States Army had no interest in soldier literacy. They only ensured a soldier could master trained tasks, carry out orders effectively and quickly. (Defense Department photo)

The Army and Vietnam

Frustrated with his slow learning and plagued by such tragedies as the death of his father, he dropped out of school in April of 1968. Unfortunately, that made him eligible for the draft.

And Vietnam.

In 1968 the United States Army had no interest in soldier literacy, nor did they subscribe to any adult learning theory. They only ensured a soldier could master trained tasks, carry out orders effectively and quickly.

So my dad found himself as an infantryman in Vietnam in 1969.

Then after that, he saw places such as Korea and Germany.

The Army improved his vocabulary and literacy only enough to meet the needs of the service.

After getting married and having a son, he left the military for civilian life.

Image by Ben Kerckx from Pixabay

Life in the 80s

Despite the commercials and public service ads about adult literacy in the 80s, there was not a lot of real effort given to fixing the problem. Adult learning theory was something that was given lip service to, but beyond photo ops and the such, there was little done.

So my dad, a person that could grasp technology and mechanics faster than many engineers, was quickly relegated to apartment maintenance.

After all, what hope did a high school drop out have to better himself?

He couldn’t go back to school. After all, he didn’t even have a High School Diploma or GED, so college was out. To earn a GED, he had to overcome his illiteracy.

For a man already working over sixty hours a week to support a family, finding the time was impossible.

Not that my Dad did not try. He was always going to the library and checking out technical manuals on vehicles, machinery, and items like that. He taught himself how to sight read guitar music. 

Most of all he instilled a love of the written word into me. My sister and I had to have library cards. We went every other weekend to the library, and we had better check out a book.

He expected his children to achieve more in education.

A gift that I can never repay.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay



The 90s and Beyond

However, my Dad did try hard as time went on to overcome his reading comprehension. Many of what he did, I will go into more depth further as he did try some pretty new tactics and tricks that are just now being embraced by the educational community.

The computer bug bit my dad in the early 1990s. Compared to today’s computers, the desktops of that time were not as advanced as my smartphone.

They required programming in BASIC or FORTRAN, and if you messed up on the syntax or grammar of a program, may God have mercy on your soul. The computer surely would not. By doing that, he slowly built up his reading skills in English.

My dad worked on his own adult learning theory, and in 2004 finally earned his GED.

Sad to say, that my Dad was diagnosed with Lymphoma in 2002 and passed away in 2007.

I dedicate this guide to his memory.

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

A quick word of advice

When we say the words, comprehensive adult literacy, what many people think and what it means varies greatly.  It does not necessarily mean that the adult cannot read at all. 

It might be in my Dad’s case, that the adult does not have the vocabulary to have a sufficient command of the English language; perhaps it might be possible that the adult in question has proficiency problems with technical jargon.

It is entirely possible that the learn how to read for adults is needed because the adult has only rudimentary or even no grasp of the English language.

I cannot stress how important it is to understand one thing, not every adult literacy case is the same. Nor should consider a one size fits all approach to adult continuing education.

Adult learning theory should never center around generalities for specific cases. When dealing with adult literacy and adult education, do what is right for the learner.

Every person will be different so, do what works for the idea to learn how to read for adults.

Now on to the fun stuff!

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Adult Learning Theory 

Adult learning theory is how it sounds; ideas that professionals suggest work best in helping guiding educators and students to learn how to read for adults.  Adult literacy and adult education nearly always vary depending on what method the educator follows.

Some of the more prominent adult learning theory, are  Andragogy, Self-Directed Learning, and Transformational Learning. Professionals will use one or all of these adult literacy tools.

But I suppose right now you are wondering what each one of those is.

I know I would.


There are two types of learning applications pedagogy and andragogy. Pedagogy is the science of teaching children; while andragogy focuses mainly on adult learners. Andragogy in the adult learning theory for educating and aiding to help the student learn how to read for adults, suggest the following about the learner.

  • The learner comes self-motivated for adult education through internal and not external forces. In a nutshell, the adult wants to learn.
  • The problem-centered student of adult education wants to apply their newfound knowledge immediately
  • They have a wealth of knowledge from life experiences to help in their adult education
  • New positions and social roles spur the learner to adult continuing education to expand vocabulary.
  • The adult literacy mostly moves from dependency on the educator to a form of self-study and self-directed adult education.

Adults, unlike children, need to know why they are they are learning a particular task. By giving the adult learner a reason why they are learning a specific job for a reason, the desire for mastery increases.

Experts in the field of Andragogy suggests that the adult learner or instructor for the adult learner try some of the following to aid in adult literacy:

  • Create a cooperative atmosphere for the learner
  • Find out the specific interests and needs for achieving adult literacy. Simply put, what does the learner wish to accomplish.
  • Work in a sequential manner. Do not skip around.
  • Work with the learner to find out what works best. Once you find a strategy or material that the learner enjoys or learns the best, stick with it.
  • Adjust the learning material and methods periodically as the learner advances to best fit the learner.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Self-Directed Learning

The adult learning theory for the self-directed learner is one that sets the pace of their learning. They will tackle their vocabulary problems in a manner and speed that the adult finds comfortable. My Dad used this method to help him.

Nearly 70% of those trying to learn to read for adults fit in this category  (Cross, 1981), with 90% of adult continuing education learners having done at least one self-directed lesson a year (Tough, 1971).

Now that you know the numbers, what is exactly involved with self-directed learning?

The experts describe it as a “process in which individuals take the initiative, without the help of others” in planning, carrying out, and evaluating their own learning experiences (Knowles, 1975).

In layman’s terms, this adult learning theory is the adult learner taking control of their studies and the pace of learning. By seeing and hearing English in everyday life, they increase their vocabulary. 

The attractiveness of self-directed learning stems from the idea that the learning can learn at his or her own pace. Learners can incorporate the lessons into the ordinary day to day activities ranging from e-mail to shopping.  It allows the learner to gain knowledge by doing. The learner sees the positive effects of their adult continuing education as it applies to their daily activities.

Here are some strategies for adult continuing education with self-directed learning:

  • Decide on an objective after a self-assessment
  • Pick a starting point for the objective;
  • Match appropriate resources (books, articles, content
    experts) and methods (Internet searches, 
    discussion groups, etc.) to the objective;
  • Set learning goals, strategies, and evaluation criteria
  • Decide  on strategies for decision-making and self-evaluation
    of work;
  • Adopt  positive attitudes and independence relative
    to self-directed learning; and
  • Constantly reflect on what the SDL learner is discovering.

The drawback to self-directed learning strategies sets on the level of literacy the learner has. The lower the level of literacy, the harder it may be for the learner to work in an independent environment. Without outside guidance, the low-level learner could easily find themselves frustrated and give up. Self-direction is a critical component of persistence in adult education, helping learners recognize how and when to engage in self-study when they find they must stop out of formal education (Brookfield 1985). 


Image by Perfecto_Capucine from Pixabay

Transformative learning

Transformative Learning is a rational process. As individuals reflect on and discuss their assumptions about the world, they often experience a shift in their frame of reference or worldview

For this to happen, individuals engaging in thoughtful discourse need to challenge each others’ assumptions and encourage group members to consider various perspectives. It is essential that participants engaging in friendly conversation have complete and accurate information about the topic for discussion, be free from bias, and meet in an environment of acceptance, empathy, and trust (Mezirow, 1997, 2000).

Transformative Learning is a rational process.

 As individuals reflect on and discuss their assumptions about the world, they often experience a shift in their frame of reference or worldview. For this to happen, individuals
engaging in reflective discourse need to challenge each others’ assumptions and encourage group members to consider various perspectives.

It is essential that participants engaging in reflective discourse have complete and accurate information about the topic for discussion, be free from bias, and meet in an environment of acceptance, empathy, and trust (Mezirow, 1997, 2000). A criticism often leveled at Mezirow’s TL theory is that it does not account for the effect of the individual’s race, class, and gender, or the historical context in which the learning occurs (Corley, 2003; Sheared & Johnson-Bailey, 2010; Taylor, 1998; Cervero & Wilson, 2001). It has also been
criticized as hyper-rational, ignoring feelings, relationships, context and culture, and temporal aspects (Silver-Pacuilla, 2003). 

Transformative Learning is the go-to adult learning theory in dealing with English as a Second Language. The argument goes that by immersing the student in an English speaking environment that causes their brain to change its learning patterns slowly ensuring that they think in English, so they speak English.

Now that we have a rough idea of what adult learning theory comprises of, we can start focusing on tools to improve adult literacy and to act as a guide to help learn how to read for adults

adult literacy, adult education, adult continuing education, learn to read as an adult, adult learning theory Nearly a Billion People worldwide cannot read. UN File Photo

Adult Literacy

Pick your poison.

You have a rough idea of the adult learning theory that can help; now the question remains as to how you will go about it.

So, pick your poison. What tactic works for you?

The answer depends.

On what?

Simple, that depends on the result desired. Does the learner not know how to read at all? Is the learner after improving their adult literacy, maybe trying to moving from a limited vocabulary to a larger one?

Or is the adult learner more after adult continuing education? Maybe having to expand their vocabulary in a particular field of study or profession? A new nurse wanting to grasp medical terms? An engineer that is trying to develop their knowledge of technical terms.

Depending on what the learner needs will determine some of the steps needed to improve adult literacy.

Image by STIGMAMA from Pixabay

The Games People Play and a way to Learn How to Read for Adults

Do you want to play a game?

No seriously.

Do you want to play a game?

Ever wonder how come children understand how to work modern gadgets and toys faster than adults do? It’s effortless, playing games.

Think about it, when challenged to do something, especially in a competitive environment. Children use technology to play games, so they master the new information very quickly.

The adult learning theory does suggest that the lesson be enjoyable and captivating. Then why not let your competitive nature help to learn how to read for adults.

People are more likely to learn when they are not looking at it as learning. Having to sit down with a lesson can cause people to gloss over the experience, and even tune it out. When they see the experience as abstract and of no immediate value, they are not concentrating as much as needed to master the lesson.

At the opposite side of the spectrum, when the lesson excites the learner to master the subject.

Quite possibly the best path to adult literacy.

So play a game. Now I am not saying that you play any game. Play something that mostly challenges your vocabulary and spelling.

That mostly was my Dad’s way of learning. At one point he became obsessed with Wordsearch puzzles. Since this was before anyone knew about the internet, he was always buying the jumbo Wordsearch books and magazines. 

He spent hours in the evenings just searching for words. As he saw new words that he had never seen before he would pull out a Webster’s Dictionary and look it up. He would then use that word for days to come. Without knowing it, he had happened upon his own adult learning theory.

Eventually, as his vocabulary improved, he started trying the more difficult crossword puzzles.  So no matter what, my Dad was learning without the stress or boredom that a classroom brings so many learners.

Adult Education, Games, and Spell-Quiz

So how does Spell-Quiz fit into this?

If you noticed, there are two types of interactive learner tools at Spell-Quiz to strive for mastery. 

For the near illiterate adult learner, I would suggest going through the modules from First Grade up to Adult. I would recommend that even if the learner finds themselves to be able to use words on higher levels to start off at the First Grade one.

Why do you ask?

For the simple fact that you never know where you might be lacking in a bit of knowledge. Perhaps some words are considered elementary level, that still throws you for a loop.

Me, I still struggle with words like, “answer,” “weird,” and “their.”

To this day, I find myself having to think about the spelling of those words, and will probably make the occasional mistake of writing them or typing those words. Ironically, when I did type the words above, I still spelled “weird,” with the “e” and the “i” in the wrong place.

For those of you on the go, there are plenty of apps you can download on your phone or tablet such as Word Crossy or your PC at Cool-Math

There are also some pretty fun spelling games here at Spell-Quiz.

So let’s suppose that you are not into computer games. 

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

Are you a bit old-school?

Then there are the traditional board games like scrabble you can enjoy. Or maybe just searching through google for printable crossword puzzles or word searches.

Remember that the learner must be comfortable in their learning style. Otherwise, all of this is a complete waste of time.

So go out and improve your adult literacy with games!

Adult Education and Adult Continuing Education

There is an adage, use it or lose it.

Just like the bodybuilder only bulks up by continually lifting weights and working out, the brain needs the same amount of conditioning and practice

Adult education only indeed works out of constant usage.

It does not work to see a word once and expect to be able to spell it or understand what it means. Adult literacy only comes with usage and lots of it.

So think of studying not as a tedious activity that has an ideal outcome; instead look at it in the same manner as the bodybuilder. That also means that you must grow into adult literacy.

You don’t go out and deadlift 200 pounds of weights on your first day. In the same sense, do not expect to go and read “War and Peace,” or “It,” immediately. It is something you work into at a pace that your body can handle.

I bet now you are asking, “But how do I do this?”

There are many tricks and tips.

Start off small, there is the word of the day challenge. Pick a word out of the dictionary, any word that you have never heard of before. 

How about that one? Or that one, that one is good.

Now that you have your word of the day, use it as many times as possible during the day. I have seen people set a minimum number of times to use it. Set that goal, five times; ten times; twenty times; push yourself to master that word. 

Think of it bicep curls for vocabulary.

Another great way to build up your vocabulary is to read.

And read some more.

For good measure, read a little more.

Make a point of making some time each night or whenever you have free time to read. I do that to this day. My last half-hour before I go to bed is dedicated to reading. Not just skimming over the words, but taking them in. If I do not understand a word, I have two choices. 

Run for the dictionary or use context clues.

What are context clues, you ask?

It is the technique of looking at the way it is used in the passage and then taking an educated guess as to its meaning. You may not recognize the word, but if you look at words around that term, you can use deductive reasoning to figure out the meaning.

Think of yourself as Sherlock Holmes with his handy sidekick, Dr. Watson with the meaning of the word being the mystery.

The game’s afoot!

For example, here is a passage from Alexander Kent’s novel, In Gallant Company:

Down with the early sunlight were two ships, and as first it seemed likely that the enemy had somehow found the means to frustrate any attempt of evacuation. But as the vessels tacked ths way and that, drawing nearer to land with each change of course, they were both identified and cheered. Not only had the sloop-of-warSpite, come for them, but also the thirty-two gun frigate Vanquisher, sent, it seemed by Rear-Admiral Coutts himself.

As you can see, I underlined two words, “sloop-of-war,” and “frigate.” Not being familiar with ships and the sea, it is very possible that you have no clue what these two words mean. So let’s examine the paragraph to see if we can see any context clues to help us define the terms.

As you can see, the term frigate is after the words, “thirty-two gun,” so we can guess so far that whatever a frigate is, it has 32 guns on it. “sloop-of-war,” is little more difficult seeing as there are no clues directly before or after it. 

That means we need to look a little deeper.

We see a couple sentences above this the term “vessels,” and “two ships,” so we can assume that a sloop-of-war and “frigate” are some types of ship.

To see if we are correct, let’s consult a dictionary.

According to Merriam-Webstersloop-of-war is:

a small warship with guns on only one deck

The dictionary also says that frigate is:

a square-rigged war vessel intermediate between a corvette and a ship of the line

So as you can see, we were able to discover a passable definition just out of the context clues.

Now go back to the passage above and pick out another word you might be unsure of and try it for yourself.

Then there are other adult learning theory out there. Want a bit more practice with adult education or adult continuing education? 

When I was young, doing lines was how many teachers and even my parents used as a punishment or a reinforcement. Nothing increases your vocabulary or penmanship than writing the same few words a few hundred times.

So my suggestion to you would be to write.

You might be saying, why? If I can barely read, what am I going to write?

The short answer, whatever you want.

Keep a journal, write to-do lists; write short stories; write poems.

To learn how to read for adults, it doesn’t matter the content, what matters is that you constantly stay in practice to improve your adult literacy. The best thing about it is that you can look back on your earlier work and see how your vocabulary improves as you go.

Everyone needs to be able to look back and see how far we have come. It is how we push ourselves to keep pushing towards the next goal.

Adult continuing education

The above tricks and tips are great for those still working on their adult literacy, but we need to add a few tricks and tips for those working on adult continuing education. The same adult learning theory will not work here.

In some instances, context clues will help, but when dealing with technical terms and jargon, you may very well end up needing that dictionary more and more. 

Remember earlier when I said that repetition is the key?

Well, this is where it will come in the handiest. Using the words over and over again until they are second nature. There is no special or easy road to adult literacy on technical terms other than usage and memorization.

In my college days, I had a Geology professor that gave us a few tips on learning the material. He would say over and over again, the best way to study the material in a textbook or a journal, was to read the selection once, looking for key terms (textbooks made this easy with key terms listed at the beginning of the chapter), highlighting the words you are not familiar with.

Now, go define those words. 

So now when you go back through the chapter to take notes about the chapter, write the definition in your notes everytime you see that word. By the time you have read, defined, reread and have taken notes, you should have a pretty good grasp on the meaning of the word.

But do not forget them after the chapter is done!

If you do, you will most assuredly forget the word through nonuse. USe every opportunity in future notes or speaking to use that word. It will only help you later on.

Flex your thinking muscle, the brain,  and give definition and tone to your literacy, knowledge, and skills.

In the scheme of things, you will be looked at by your peers for an expanded vocabulary. If you watch, people with a good command of the English language are usually looked at with more trust and respect.

Just think about it. Suppose that you are at your Doctor, which of the following statements instill trust in the Doctor’s ability?

After reviewing your test results, MRI and X-rays, It looks as though you have a growth on your colon, that we will have to surgically remove.”


“We looked at the tests and stuff. You have a thing on your butt. We are gonna cut you open and take it out.”

Honestly, which one you do you think you would have more faith in the abilities of?

So go on, practice those terms.

Another tip

If you look into any classroom (or if you are a little older and like me) you probably have seen the read-along books.  You may remember it from your childhood with the phrase, “you will know that it is time to turn the page when you hear the chimes sound like this.”

If you are not sure what I am talking about, do not despair.

But try this to further your adult education or adult continuing education, consider this. to learn how to read for adults. The old-fashioned read=along. Find an audiobook (not abridged, it works better if you have the complete book on tape). Then find a copy of the book and read along while the tape plays.

Hear the words that the narrator is reading and gain an understanding from that. You would be surprised how much your vocabulary grows.

Image by Bruce Emmerling from Pixabay

Learn How to Read for Adults


All in all, an adult reading theory can only go so far in improving adult literacy.  Whether it is tackling adult education for the learner that is struggling to learn how to read; or if it adult continuing education, this can only serve as a guide.

The learner has to be ready and prepared to face the struggles in achieving a level of adult literacy they seek.  It is easy to tell someone what the latest adult learning theory is; it is much harder to improve adult literacy. Adult education and adult continuing education takes much more time and dedication, especially when talking about the adult learning theory that makes it possible to learn how to read for adults.

You are attempting to do what 750 million adults cannot do (UNESCO, 2017), read.  Imagine that by undertaking this goal, you are doing what over ten percent of the population of the planet cannot do. Even making slow strides should fill you up with pride in your accomplishment.

A noble goal

It is important for you to blaze your own path. Design an adult learning theory that works for you and stick to it. Design your adult education or adult continuing education to be as unique as you are.

Adult education and adult continuing education will only be achieved by someone dedicated to overcoming their obstacles. No one should be under the assumption that to learn how to read for adults will be simple or easy. After all, you are trying to accomplish in a few short years what students spend a couple decades doing.

But do not despair or stress out,  or despair. This is a goal worth tackling. 

So grab that book, log on to that programs, break out the board game. The end result is to learn how to read for adults. How you get to your adult continuing education, adult reading goals are only limited by your imagination and dedication..